Everybody loves a good story—no one, perhaps, more than the storyteller herself. But sometimes I find that I am no longer telling the tale; instead, the tale is telling me. I’ve forgotten that my story is just that: a saga informed by my own perceptions, not some kind of objective truth. When that happens, I am trapped in my own creation. I’m not living my life. I’m not moving forward. I am simply rehashing the same tired stuff, over and over. My story is now running the show.
A story might go like this: some moron wasn’t looking where he was going, so I was in a terrible car accident and I was in the hospital for a month and I lost my job and none of it was my fault and now I’m never going to find a job as good as that one and my life is ruined forever. I hate that guy who did this to me.
Or it might go like this: I was in a freak car accident and spent a month in the hospital. During that time, I got a chance to see how many people really loved me and cared about me. And because I was off work for so much time, I finally broke free of a job I didn’t enjoy working with people who didn’t value me enough to hang in there for me while I was injured. Now I am free to reinvent myself, and I am looking forward to what happens next.
Same principal characters. Same events. One story is one of loss and anger; the other is one of hope. The thing is, they’re each just a story—and there are dozens of other ways to tell it. A version in which the accident is the injured party’s fault. A version in which the accident was no accident, or a perhaps one in which the accident was predestined to happen. It’s a tragedy. It’s an opportunity. It’s a cautionary tale. Ultimately, they’re all spin.
None of those stories happens to be mine, but I’ve got plenty of my own, just as we all do. It does me good to remember that they are just that: my own dramas, with my own spin. Thinking about them this way makes it easier to keep them where they should be: in the past. And it heightens my awareness that I also tell stories about those around me, about what I think they’re thinking and feeling, when the truth is, I have no idea. Recognizing my stories for what they are keeps me in the present, instead of reliving the past or conjecturing about the future, which I can plan for but can’t possibly predict.
All I really know is this moment. Which, even as I write about it, is already a thing of the past. Anything else, the spin doctoring, the assumptions, the prognostications…all of that simply buys me a full scholarship to what a friend of mine calls MSU: Making Stuff Up.
So at this moment, all is well in my world. The next moment will have to take care of itself.